French defence minister in India to salvage Rafale deal

GMT 16:31 2015 Tuesday ,24 February

Arab Today, arab today French defence minister in India to salvage Rafale deal

Dassault Aviation won
New Delhi - AFP

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian held talks with his Indian counterpart on Tuesday on his second visit to New Delhi in as many months as he tries to salvage a deal to sell 126 Rafale fighter jets.
France is hoping to save the deal, which has been snagged for three years and now faces new questions over cost, before a visit to Paris by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April.
"The two delegations met today for 45 minutes. The meeting went well," said Indian defence ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar without giving further details.
French company Dassault Aviation won the right in January 2012 to enter exclusive negotiations with India to supply 126 Rafale fighters, with experts saying a final deal could be worth $12 billion.
The idea is for Dassault to supply 18 of the twin-engine fighters later this year while the remaining 108 would be made by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd under technology transfer agreements with India.
But negotiations have proved fraught, both under Modi's government and its Congress predecessor, while a committee looking into the deal has reportedly found that it was not the cheapest option.
Le Drian's visit comes a week after France signed an agreement with Egypt for the first foreign sale of its Rafale fighters, which it hopes will prompt others to snap up its premier combat jet.
Paris is also eyeing possible deals with Qatar and Malaysia, although the Rafale has lost out to foreign competitors in South Korea, Singapore, Morocco, Switzerland and Brazil.
France's defence ministry said before Le Drian's arrival late Monday that the talks would give the governments a chance to discuss "international affairs and defence industry issues", but there was little doubt the Rafale would dominate proceedings.
Modi's right-wing government, which won power in elections last May, has been blowing hot and cold about the progress of discussions.
While his government has pledged to push forward with purchases which stalled under Congress, Modi wants to end India's status as the world's number one defence importer and to have 70 percent of hardware manufactured domestically by the turn of the decade.
A defence ministry spokesman said during Le Drian's visit in December that outstanding differences "would be resolved in a fast-track manner".
But the government has also commissioned a report about the project costs, adding yet more uncertainty.
Speaking at an air show in Bangalore last week, India's Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said he expected the contract negotiation committee (CNC) to submit its report within weeks.
"I have asked the CNC to speed up the process of completion of the report for us to take a decision on the acquisition of Rafale," he told reporters.
Le Drian arrived in New Delhi late Monday and left on Tuesday afternoon after meeting Parrikar.


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